Capital Investment Programmes: Update

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 23rd January 2017.

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Photo of Alan Chambers Alan Chambers UUP 2:30 pm, 23rd January 2017

T1. Mr Chambers asked the Minister of Education for an update on some capital investment programmes. (AQT 676/16-21)

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

There are a number of issues there. I suppose that all politics is local, so the Member cannot be blamed for posing that question. Priory Integrated College and Bangor Central Integrated Primary School were part of the Fresh Start announcements. The project boards are moving ahead with those, that money is secure and the programmes will happen, irrespective of what the particular political landscape will be.

I have asked government whether some of the terms of the broader funding can be widened for St Columbanus' College. Its intake makes it what is sometimes referred to as a "super-mixed school", and it should be in a position to benefit from that. As yet, central government has probably been a little bit distracted with other issues, so I have not been able to secure a widening of the terms of reference. Also tied up with that was the examination of what could be done through the school enhancement programme, and it is likely that there will be an announcement fairly imminently on that. That is because we need to get moving with the school enhancement programme to ensure a proper flow of capital. I am acutely aware of the issues. No matter how things move ahead, capital will be available in the future. We have not yet been in the position to make a major capital call, but I think that there will be one very imminently on the school enhancement programme.

Photo of Alan Chambers Alan Chambers UUP

Minister, is the money that you say is secured for two of the schools real money or is it subject to future budgetary constraints? Have you had any informal meetings with the schools about this?

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

I have been to a number of schools for meetings. I have been to Priory Integrated College and Bangor Central Integrated Primary School in relation to this issue. Their money is part of the Fresh Start money, which was £500 million allocated across a 10-year period, with a tranche of a maximum of £50 million a year. Those schools were announced as part of the first tranche of investments. As I said, the actions being taken are progressing along those lines, and the money is therefore secured, irrespective of what happens to the Northern Ireland block grant. Irrespective of what happens to any Northern Ireland Executive Budget, that is separate money that has been allocated by central government. It is secure money, they are announced projects and they are moving ahead. In the case of Priory, for instance, the first step is to ensure that it has a proper site. I think that a lot of us would have a fair guess at the answer to that. In that case, and probably for Bangor Central, the answer was fairly obvious, but that procedure needs to be gone through. The money is 100% secure and will not be impacted by wider budgetary positions. That is a bit of good news for the Member.